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Asylum trek

Hundreds of migrants take to foot

BICSKE –– Hundreds of migrants, exhausted after long treks from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, broke away from Hungarian police today and headed on foot for Western Europe. In a surprise night-time announcement, Hungary’s government said it would send buses to take them to the border with Austria.

Migrants setting off on foot for the border with Austria from Budapest, Hungary today.

Migrants setting off on foot for the border with Austria from Budapest, Hungary today.

It was not clear what the migrants’ fate would be there.

With people streaming in long lines along highways from a Budapest train station and one near a migrant reception centre in this northern town, the buses would be used because “transportation safety can’t be put at risk”, said Janos Lazar, chief of staff to the prime minister.

Lazar blamed Germany’s “contradictory communications” and the European Union for the crisis. He said Hungary had asked Austria to clarify its position on the migrants, but had not yet received an answer.

The asylum seekers had already made dangerous treks in scorching heat, crawling under barbed wire on Hungary’s southern frontier and facing the hostility of some locals along the way. Their first stop will be Austria, on Hungary’s western border, though most hope to eventually reach Germany.

Hungarian authorities had refused to let them board trains to the west, and the migrants balked at going to processing centres, fearing they would be forced to live in Hungary.

Under European law, refugees are supposed to seek asylum in the first European Union country they enter. But many see limited economic opportunities and a less welcoming atmosphere in Hungary than in Germany, Sweden and other Western nations.

In what the Hungarian media called a “day of uprisings”, about 350 people broke through a police cordon and began heading to Austria, 135 kilometres (85 miles) to the west, on tracks leading away from the railway station. Surprised riot police scrambled for their helmets as the crowd surged from the front of the train. (AP)

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